The Journey Begins
We all come to yoga for different reasons, but there seems to be a common thread. We hope that when we embark on this path, or even just go to a yoga class, that something will be different from the way it was when we began. Some of us just look really great in Lululemon pants and want to rock our downward facing dog, but many of us come to yoga because we have a challenge we have not been able to overcome. We may have heard that it helped someone we know with sciatic pain or that it can help to relieve stress. I have come to trust wholeheartedly in the power of yoga practice to always transport me to a better place than when I began, but the places it takes me when I sincerely practice and truly want to grow make me want to run first. But the freedom of becoming whole, becoming all of who I am, is worth every cost and every bit of the work. Yoga has become a solution for me to deep-rooted insecurity and a compulsive need to be approved of by other people. By “solution,” I do not mean getting rid of this insidious shame. I mean going there. Like, really going there. And by being willing to face and own what’s there becoming truly free.
When I was introduced to yoga as a young teenager, I struggled deeply with shame about my body. I was convinced that if only I were thin and looked like the images I saw in magazines and in movies, I could be worthy of love. Yoga is where I began to develop a respect for my body, to work with it as a team. I began to listen to my body and to realize that it had wisdom. I was humbled by this authentic relationship with my body. I could never quite pull off rocking peacock pose for an Insta selfie. Although I think that’s awesome and I do appreciate the sense of mastery of when you work at a pose or anything else and it just clicks. I’m passionate about serving people who believe their physical limitations or their age are an obstacle to yoga, because I want them to know they have a great advantage. Some of the illusions are knocked right off the table so they can get right to the place where the real yoga begins.
For me, yoga doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t provide a way for me to go through when I’m challenged. It’s easy to show up and practice when I’m feeling great and doing poses that don’t challenge me. But it’s when I meet those edges where I don’t know how to do something or there’s a pain that looks too great to face that I want to run. I have developed enough faith in the practice of yoga, though, that I know if I am willing to show up for the practice with a willing and open mind, I will be shown something that I couldn’t see before.
I’ve been wrestling with my shadow lately, and I’m slowly realizing I may not be able to overcome it but that I can choose to befriend it and integrate it. This understanding comes slowly for me, piece by piece, because this is the last thing you want to hear when you’re flying high on spiritual bypassing, determined to transcend the hell out of this lowly earthly realm and convince those around you in pain to deny it and join you in heaven. Oh man, I have been there. I sure have. I hate to see us suffer. I have looked with ferocity for any way out of the messiness and the depth of pain and confusion involved in being human. And if you are able to hold it together that way, with an ultraspiritual grin (credit to JP Sears for coining that term), hang on as long as you can! The way down is steep. But don’t worry if your fingers are getting tired from the death grip. There is a way. I have tried to hate myself out of being human. There seems to be this idea that if we can just be hard enough on ourselves, we’ll stop doing what we’re doing. I wish so much that mindset had a lasting effect for me, but I keep falling down. I’m beginning to suspect that the point of my existence here is not to get the hell out of this human business. It’s to live it and love myself here.
Yoga teaches me that I don’t transcend pain by ignoring it but by going more deeply into it, breathing into it, exploring it, and as it is seen and given space to unravel it transforms on its own. It is my intention to share this gift that yoga has given me, because it is the greatest gift I’ve been given. To realize the healing medicine built into every physical and emotional ailment. To look at myself with love and compassion, breathe into what’s already there without trying to arrive somewhere else, and trusting in the divine purpose and perfection of every experience, darkness and all.